America has an incredibly rich fine craft tradition dating to the late 19th century. The introduction of Modernism has only encouraged craftsmen and -women to push the boundaries of their mediums in new and conceptual ways. Two master woodworkers are being highlighted during an exceptional exhibition.
Wharton Esherick (1887–1970), universally considered the “dean of American craftsmen,” is continually recognized for his revolutionary contributions to the development of non-traditional, modern design in wood furniture. Forgoing the surface embellishment popularized by the Arts and Crafts style, Esherick focused on the pure forms of furniture as pieces of sculpture. His influence is still felt today and profoundly moves artisans of the Studio Craft Movement.
Of equal stature with Esherick is the Japanese-American George Nakashima (1905–1990), also considered a father of the American craft movement and honored with the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Emperor of Japan. Part of Nakashima’s lasting legacy is his unique aesthetic, which combined the traditions of Japanese architecture with modern technology that originated in the Western world.

Wharton Esherick, “Spiral Stair,” (c) Modernism Museum Mount Dora 2015

The works of both men and more are currently featured in an outstanding exhibition at the Modernism Museum Mount Dora in Mount Dora, Florida. “esherick to NAKASHIMA” is an outstanding exhibition that will focus on both masters and their influences on several other craftsmen. Paul Eisenhauer, executive director and curator of The Wharton Esherick Museum, suggests, “Modernism Museum Mount Dora is doing something that has never been done before. It provides an opportunity for people to interpret the world around them and the objects in it in an entirely different way.”
The exhibition is curated into 5 small rooms that are designed to appear as livible spaces.  What is more, these ‘rooms’ surround a large open area with themed/complimentary groupings of artworks. The resulting effect is one of deep appreciation for the range of techniques and skills, in addition to a thick sense of nostalgia.
“esherick to NAKASHIMA” opened on October 3.
To learn more, visit the Modernism Museum Mount Dora.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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